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The differential role of practical and emotional support in infant feeding experience in the UK

Myers, S; Page, AE; Emmott, EH; (2021) The differential role of practical and emotional support in infant feeding experience in the UK. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 376 (1827) , Article 20200034. 10.1098/rstb.2020.0034. Green open access

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Abstract

Social support is a known determinant of breastfeeding behaviour and is generally considered beneficial. However, social support encompasses a myriad of different supportive acts, providing scope for diverse infant feeding outcomes. Given the vulnerability of postpartum mental health, this paper aims to explore both how support prolongs breastfeeding and which forms of support promote the positive experience of all infant feeding. Using survey data collected online from 515 UK mothers with infants aged 0–108 weeks, Cox regression models assessed the relationship between receiving different types of support, support need and breastfeeding duration. Quasi-binomial logistic regression models assessed the relationship between receiving support, infant feeding mode and maternal experience of infant feeding. Rates of negative infant feeding experience indicate the widespread need for support: e.g. 38% of currently, 47% of no longer and 31% of never breastfeeding women found infant feeding stressful. Overall, practical support via infant feeding broadly predicted shorter breastfeeding durations and poorer feeding experience; results in relation to other forms of support were more complex. Our findings indicate different forms of support have different associations with infant feeding experience. They also highlight the wide range of individuals beyond the nuclear family on which postpartum mothers in the UK rely. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Multidisciplinary perspectives on social support and maternal–child health’.

Type: Article
Title: The differential role of practical and emotional support in infant feeding experience in the UK
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2020.0034
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0034
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: life-history theory, cooperative breeding, breastfeeding, infant feeding, subjective experience, social support
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10127106
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